Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer Steelhead Time! It's Game On!

With good numbers of summer steelhead passing over Willamette Falls, the only issue we have been facing has been the water levels. Recently the water levels have been stabilizing and dropping, and the rivers have been much more approachable for fly fishing for summer steelhead. Recently, on a day off, and a good friend and I decided to pursue some chrome. Luckily for us, we were rewarded with a fresh sea run turbo charged steelhead that my buddy landed, and I lost another one too. Even one of my swings went through, and there were three solid tugs before the fish decided it was not going to commit to my offerings, and it was gone. Close one though, and the one fish day could have easily been a three fish day if the planets lines up slightly differently.

McKenzie River Summer Steelhead
With the higher levels, the fish hold in different spots then they do in the lower summer level conditions, and knowing where to look is the biggest part in achieving success out there. Think like a steelhead, and know that they love water that is walking pace and from approximately 18"-5' deep, and that variable can clear out a lot of water that may seem fishy. If your normal go to spot is faster and deeper than when you slammed the fish last summer, then you may want to fish another spot. Many of my high water spots will not even hold a fish in low water; yet there may be a half of a dozen chromers sitting there waiting for you to show them something. Knowing where the fish hold in the current conditions will create your success. Fishing your standard low water spots will only make you feel bleaked out when you have thrown 1000 casts without even a tug or a sniff.
Stoked Angler with a Fresh Willamette Valley Summer Steelhead
When you are out there and fishing, think about the water levels again. You can get a fish to come up through the depths to check out your classic wet fly patterns or you can sink down to their level and you can grab their attention with a nice and bold large profiled pattern. On the flip side, don't forget that these fish can see some small things, and they will take a subtle fly pattern when the masses are bombarding them with all sorts of hardware. The other thing to think about is how the fish may respond to a dead drifted offering. When I was out with my friend, I hooked a fish on a swung fly presentation with a type II 15' sinking tip that was attached to a Skagit Head with a long "moal leech like" marabou pattern with the color combo being black, purple, and blue in the back. My friend followed me through the spot and his swings went undetected. After rowing the boat out into the pool, and with the sun behind us; we could see several steelhead holding. We tried to sight swing to the fish, but they did not move an inch.  
Super Bright McKenzie River Summer Steelhead
My friend Brian threw a few casts to a fish that I saw, and I coached him into each drift; since he could not see the fish from his vantage point. He threw a cast in, and as soon as it hit the water, I said, "that's the one....". It dead drifted down to the holding lie, and I told him "NOW!" right when the Thingamabobber probed over the sighted fish. Suddenly the Thingamabobber subtly dunked under only about 8" underwater. Brian struck hard, and the result was a surge of chrome that looked like a shiny car bumper in a river. FISH ON!!. We pulled the boat over to the bank, and Brian jumped out to enjoy the battle from the shore. After a sturdy long fight, the fish yielded to the net. We were stoked! Steelhead fly fishing takes persistence and will, but the rewards are huge. A successful day out on the water for summer steelhead makes you feel like you are on top of the world. Get out there so you can enjoy that feeling!

If you are interested in booking a guided trip for steelhead, call me at (541)-232-6360 or email me at .

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